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Introduction to Kuala Lampur’s startup ecosystem
Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia and the most important city to do business in the country. Most people living in Kuala Lumpur are either Malay, Chinese or Indian. Quite a mix of cultures, but everybody is living peacefully together. According to the Global Power City Index (GPCI) Kuala Lumpur is the 34th most powerful city in the world. Therefore many businesses are established in this buzzing city. Kuala Lumpur also has a very good start-up climate. In StartupBlink’s 2019 report, Kuala Lampur ranked 1st in Malaysia and 92nd globally.
Successful startups in Kuala Lampur
Especially sharing or e-commerce initiatives, like anywhere in the world, are flourishing. To name a few Malaysian successes:
Grab is the Asean answer to Uber. You can use their mobile application to order a driver, track the driver when he or she is on its way to you, and share your ride with someone for your safety. Formerly known as MyTeksi / Grab Car this start-up is close to dominating the South East Asian market.
If you are going to get married in Malaysia, you almost can’t do without Wedding.com.my. This wedding portal provides you all the information you might need. Wedding theme’s, wedding shops, wedding packages, wedding ideas, etc.
If you are buying online, you really should know about Saleduck. They offer discount codes for almost all the major Malaysian and international online stores.
There are so many different Banks and they all have several different options when it comes to loans or credit cards. iMoney helps you to find the best option for your situation.
Are you familiar with the problem that you never know which contractor or business to hire? You don’t want to spend too much time looking for the right one? Kaodim tackles this problem by creating a marketplace for jobs like photography, plumbing, repair or installation work. At Kaodim, you simply put the job up and let the contractors approach you with a quotation.
At Bfab, short for Be Fabulous, you can search for beauty treatments and/or beauty salons. Whether you want to get your hair done or for example your nails, you can search for the best place according to your preferences at Bfab.
Involve Asia is one of the few performance based networks that are active in South East Asia. The E-commerce marketing platform helps publishers and advertisers come together and by this, both online stores and publishers make more revenue. They serve the Indonesian and Singaporean market too.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Starting Up in Kuala Lampur
There are many reasons as to why Kuala Lumpur is such a breeding place for startups. New startups are popping up on a weekly basis and it’s easy to understand why they chose for Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur definitely has a lot of things going for it.
For starters, charter flights from Kuala Lumpur run often and are very very affordable. AirAsia flies to every big city in South East Asia and thus connects you to almost every place in which you can do business. A return flight to Singapore, for example, does not have to cost you more than $46. Kuala Lumpur is centrally located in South East Asia, so the tickets are not only cheap, but the flights are short too.
Even though Malaysia does not have the highest internet penetration rate in South East Asia (Singapore red.), it is the best choice to settle down. Prices for living expenses, housing, labor costs, and office space tend to go over the roof in Singapore, whereas everything is relatively affordable in Malaysia, and you still more or less have the same advantages as you have in Singapore.
It is also quite convenient that English is the second biggest language in Malaysia. People in Malaysia are either Bahasa Malaysia- or English natives, but most people speak both languages fluently. This comes in handy when taking care of basic, but important, things such as opening a bank account, getting an internet connection and getting all your paperwork sorted.
Living conditions are definitely not bad for expats in Malaysia either. The food is exceptional, the climate is good throughout the year and there are many high-class facilities, such as nice gyms. There are also great condo’s to be found with swimming pools and tennis courts at affordable prices.
The Malaysian government also makes your life quite easy. The tax rates are not high and rules around personnel are not that strict. For example, the probation period of employees can last up to six months.
Of course, it is not all sunshine and roses. Kuala Lumpur has its difficulties too. The rush hour gets really crazy and you can count on enormous traffic jams. A route that would normally take you 15 minutes can easily cost you an hour during peak time. Public transport is not that well organised either. The most negative thing about doing business in Kuala Lumpur is setting up the company itself. It takes you a lot of time to arrange things and you can’t arrange much online. Hard copies, stamping a lot of papers and patience are required. Not much is regulated so it can take up a lot of your time before you get things done.
Major Players in Kuala Lampur startup ecosystem
When talking about the Malaysian startup ecosystem, MaGIC can certainly not be left out. This institute strives to help (new) entrepreneurs in Malaysia. They organise events and can give you a lot of valuable information.
When you have the prestigious MSC status, a lot more doors in Malaysia will open for you. There are many application criteria and guidelines and it might take you a while before you receive the status, but it is really worth the effort. They are supported by the Malaysian government and are striving to attract the best technology companies (and start-ups). You can count on nice privileges granted by the government if you get the status. In order to get the status, your business needs to be located in an approved MSC-building.
Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) its goal is to ‘create opportunities and build a strong vibrant digital innovation ecosystem’. They are working very hard to shape more opportunities for eCommerce, Technology and the Digital Economy in Malaysia.
There are many coworking spaces to be found in Kuala Lumpur. It is important to be inspired by the environment you are working in (and of course the people you are working with). Therefore the most creative looking and flexible coworking spaces are listed here:
In this good-looking co-working space, you can buy a 10-day pass. Very convenient for those who only need a co-working place once in a while.
You can find the co in The Row or Bangsar. They offer everything from coworking setups to private offices. They also organise nice events, seminars, and workshops.
When you need a co-working space where you can have a meeting or a presentation with a group, 8 spaces would be something for you. You can hire a place for a day, or per hour. They have spaces in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur city, Petaling Jaya and Subang.
This co-working space is particularly nice as the organise a free brunch every first Friday of the month. You can also use their space for free until 6 PM those days. A great way to meet fellow entrepreneurs.
This one comes in handy when you don’t only want a place to work, but some assistance as well. They offer secretarial-, document-, consultant- and reception services.
When you are just looking for a place where they have good wifi and there is a nice atmosphere, VCR and Third Wave also deserve a spot on this list. VCR is located in the heart of KL city and serves thé best coffee. Third Wave is conveniently located in the upcoming business area Bangsar South.
Incubators & Accelerators
There are several accelerator programs to be found in Kuala Lumpur, or in its surroundings. MaGic, the first one in the following list, is definitely the biggest one. Their Accelerator program, backed up by the Malaysian government, started by funding 77 startups.
Mad Business Incubation Program
May bank Fintech (currently not accepting)
Magazines and blogs
There are a lot of good websites, magazines, and blogs that are helpful to follow:
An eCommerce website that covers a lot of Malaysian news regarding (tech) startups and e-commerce.
Articles and news about Asia’s startup ecosystem.
Startup news from Asia.
Articles, press releases, and information about Asia’s Startup Ecosystem.
Business news from Malaysia and for entrepreneurs in Malaysia.
Interesting startup events in Kuala Lampur
The event hosts big international speakers and interesting topics will be tackled.
Malaysian Entrepreneur convention (MEC):
Handy for entrepreneurs in Malaysia
An event hosted by MaGIC, gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to exchange local knowledge and share experiences.
Attendees can follow sessions hosted by professionals.
Asean Entrepreneurship summit:
Summit for entrepreneurs active – or planning to be active – in Asia. First edition was in 2015, the date for 2016 is not known yet.
About the author:
Rosanne Hortensius is Commercial Manager at Dutch start-up Saleduck. Saleduck offers online discounts of over 1000 bigger and smaller advertisers in more than 10 countries. She moved from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur to help open Saleduck’s second office. From Kuala Lumpur, they are serving the Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian and Thai market. More Asian markets will follow soon.